Today, is my seven year wedding anniversary 🙂 seven years?!?! That time really has flown.

If you read my post last week you’ll know I went to great lengths to ensure Mo and I celebrated in style, booking us a luxury stay at The Malvern Spa Hotel. I wanted to wash away memories of ruining last year’s surprise (when I sun-bleached our wedding album) and have been excited about our trip away for months.

Well, I can now tell you that this year’s anniversary saga was yet another catastrophic event.

Ok maybe I’m being overly dramatic there, but let’s just say it didn’t go to plan.

I’ll start from the beginning….

Early last week I had an allergic reaction. Which triggered a headache. Which caused a fever. Which brought on stress. That then caused ulcers. Which hindered me from eating. Causing loss of energy. Increasing said stress levels. Bringing on more ulcers. Which eventually led to further dental complications. Even drinking became painful. And caused the vicious cycle of headaches to start again. This all started on Tuesday so by Friday I’d had enough and made an emergency trip to the doctors. I was told these were all symptoms of severe stress (which I probably got from being ILL) and they advised to me to completely switch off and once my stress levels reduced… the symptons would start to disappear.

Well I didn’t feel great at all but Mo and I both decided that if rest and relaxation was what I needed, then a spa break at The Malvern Spa Hotel couldn’t have come at a better time.

So off we drove to Herefordshire. I say we, but I didn’t really contribute much (or at all) to the driving. I slept most of the way down, waking as we hit the M5. Perfect timing as it happens, the view as you drive into Malvern is quite something. Those hills really do make the most spectacular backdrop, even if the skies were looking a little grey.

 

The Location

Right I’m all about honesty, so trust me when I say – do not be put off by this hotel’s location. Why do I say that? Well you’ll find it’s on a retail park. Not at all what we were expecting and even when you pull up, it really doesn’t look that great from the outside either.

 

 

I felt my stress level lift a mini-notch as I was worried this was not going to be the relaxing surprise I had planned for hubby, but I made a silent prayer that all would be ok and we headed in, an hour earlier then expected.

I am very pleased to share that the boxy outside is in no way a reflection of what’s going on inside. *Insert huge audible sigh of relief*

 

 

First of all it smelt amazing… I instantly felt better. It was pristine, the familiar sight of clean white towels and gowns lined the area behind reception and the staff were helpful and welcoming. They took our luggage, gave us our robes and slippers and off we trotted on a mini tour of the facilities.

 

Lunch Time

Tour ticked off, robes put on, with an hour or so before our first treatments we decided to have a light snack. Food looked good! I was still having severe gum and ulcer issues but I was so hungry after not being able to eat anything the night before I decided I would attempt to fight through the pain.

Orders taken, we admired the landscapes on the restaurants walls until one of the waitresses arrived offering fresh bread rolls. I know it seems like a really weird thing to mention but it reminded me of our honeymoon as I literally ate fresh bread rolls every day before our meal in Morocco (yes, bread is one of my weaknesses) and I instantly picked out a soft white bun. Oh it was so fresh and smelt so good and the butter melted the instant I scraped it on. Never has one bite caused me so much happiness and so much sadness at the same time. I wanted to eat it SO BADLY, yet I was in too much pain to finish.

 

 

The fish finger sandwiches arrived, thankfully on even softer, fluffy white bread making it slightly easier to eat. You’d have thought I would have played it safe and ordered soup – but I REALLY wanted that fish finger sandwich. And I made sure I powered through as much as I could. The fish was lightly battered and not too crispy, sauce wasn’t too heavy on the capers and the fresh orange juice washed it down nicely.

 

 

Let’s just say every bite was worth any bit of pain I went through.

 

The Treatments

The spa treatment rooms are in two different areas. I headed off past the manicure stations for my facial. After discussing the treatment, checking I had no allergies, asking if I had any product preferences Bree left me to get settled.

I had asked for the heated blanket to stay on as I was still feeling a bit under the weather and I snuggled into the massage bed ready for my facial. One of the first things that stand out here is how insanely comfortable the treatment room beds are. The most comfortable ones I’ve come across – and I’ve been to my fair share of spas. I instantly felt better.

 

 

Selected treatments: Malvern Express Facial; ESPA Full Body Massage and a Manicure.

 

The Facilites

It was a Saturday so as expected, there were quite a few people at the spa that day, but that didn’t mean we couldn’t enjoy the facilities. There are two hydrotherapy pools – one inside with a swim through tunnel that takes you to the outdoor one (Ok so technically there’s just the one pool). There’s also a steam room, sauna, salt grotto, foot spa and like every good spa a total relaxation room.

 

 

I also loved the area by the spa reception desk. A central skylight flooded the room with light, there was a tranquil marble fountain surrounded by olive trees and cushioned chairs and recliners.

 

 

Dinner

We booked dinner for half 7. It wasn’t too busy when we arrived, but within half an hour of being there that soon changed. The restaurant was a popular choice that night and the staff were run off their feet. However – at no point did that affect the service we received. The dining room was a well-oiled machine and the quality of the food was superb.

I tried to choose better suited dishes in the evening, to suit my pain issues. I ordered a soup and pasta and stayed away from attempting bread. Even when Mo was enjoying his rosemary spiced fresh bread roll, I played it sensible and waited patiently for my soup.

 

 

The Room

After a (kinda) busy day I was looking forward to an early night. And after finding our zen in the spa… the journey definitely continued once we were back in the room. Tones of grey and midnight green, blackout curtains – a very good call – squeaky clean bathroom, a choice of pillows… I wasted no time getting into my pyjamas and snuggling up in bed.

 

 

For the first time in a long time I slept through most of the night.

With checkout at 11am, we decided to robe up and head to breakfast before getting ourselves ready to go.

 

Sunday Morning Breakfast

*Sigh*

My heart sank when I saw the breakfast menu. There was so much I wanted but alas I couldn’t face a thing. I encouraged Mo not to let my loss of appetite stop him from indulging. He chose a full English with vegetarian sausage, and a couple of freshly baked mini pain au chocolats. It’s very clear that so much of what’s on offer here is homemade and it makes one heck of a difference.

 

 

Morning Stroll

Feeling quite disheartened by all my sickness issues, Mo and I headed out for a short stroll in the Malvern Hills. If getting better meant switching off from the world, then being outdoors with my boots on is probably the best treatment.

Just a short drive from the hotel was the North Quarry car park, a mere ten minutes. From the advice sheet in the hotel, this was labelled as one of the less crowded options.

If you’re worried about where to go there are many, many walking routes on the hills. The paths snake all the way round, up and down. We headed towards North Hill – we didn’t make it to the top, bearing in mind I hadn’t had much to eat all weekend. Not that I was going to let that stop us from getting to a point with a good view. Food or no food I wanted to climb just a bit of that hill.

I wanted to see all the wild flowers, follow the butterfly’s and say hi to the many well behaved dogs (and humans) on the way up.

Even from North Quarry car park you don’t have to walk far to see some good views. Twenty minutes up the path and I found my clearing, bench with a view. It was bliss. Malvern is a truly beautiful looking town and I loved that as we watched the scenery laid still in front of us, every so often a train would shimmy it’s way across in a perfectly straight line along the horizon.

 

 

Afternoon Tea at Colwall Park

After a morning in the hills, I was definitely ready to attempt to eat again. Our next stop was the Colwall Park Hotel, again not far from where we were.

 

 

It was fairly quiet when we arrived and although we were again slightly early, we were allowed to relax at our table in the dining room. I love a good old country hotel and this was exactly that. Lots of original features and all the décor was in keeping with building, although it looked like it was ‘modern traditional.’

Stand outs from afternoon tea? The smoked salmon sandwich was my favourite from the selection – but the cakes were definitely the star of the show. My mum makes the most amazing carrot cake in the world, but the one here at Colwall was a pretty good rival. It wasn’t overly sweet and the texture was very light and not at all dry. Felt like eating clouds.

 

 

The Experience

The staff at both hotels were really understanding, especially as I had been feeling so guilty for not being able to finish my meals. It may not have cured me (yes, I am still suffering) but it’s definitely stopped all the headaches and fever issues I was experiencing… so I’m hoping that means the end of this frustrating sickness is near.

 

 

All in all it was a lovely weekend, I only wish I hadn’t been so ill!! I will admit, I did have a few meltdowns out of frustration but Mo and I did laugh it off as this was exactly what we should’ve expected from our weekend away.

I mean, it would have been so boring of us to have just a normal smooth sailing weekend away. We’ve explored 17 countries together,  travelled from one end of the world to the other and near enough every journey has had some crazy story to tell.

Serenading street sellers, Getting lost, dealing with vomit, waiting all day for an event that wasn’t till the next day, missing boats, disappointing tourist spots, extreme weather, kayak fights, making new friends, falling out of love with takeaways and so much more!

We often joke about visiting a pharmacy on every holiday (on our trip to Thailand we went to one nearly every day LOL) and I suppose after seven years of travelling together… what’s one more trip to the chemist?

One of my favourite things to do when we go away is try out the food and it was definitely the element I missed out on most this weekend.

I suppose this means once I am better… I’ll just have to go back, right? 😉

 

 

Happy Anniversary Mr P, thank you for putting up with my dramas time and time again!

(not just talking about this weekend)

 

 

*** Thank you to the Malvern Spa Hotel and Colwall Park Hotel for their hospitality over the weekend and for inviting us to stay. All spa treatments were purchased and of course as always, all opinions are 100% my own. In line with my new keeping it real policies, none of the photos have been edited. ***

 

 

Follow:

UK Mini Breaks

 

Normally when I’m gifting Mo with a surprise trip away, I save them as birthday treats. Mainly because I am absolutely RUBBISH at remembering any other special occasion. Over the seven years we’ve been together there have been maaany times where I’ve woken up in a morning and Mo has left me a beautiful card and present causing my eyes to pop out of my head as I realised I had yet again completely forgotten about a special day!

So last year, I was so pleased with myself as I had planned a gift for our wedding anniversary that was sure to shock him. I finally put together our wedding photo album (something I had been promising to do since year 1 of marriage).

I bought a beautiful personalised leather album from Atlas & I and spent weeks choosing photographs and arranging them. Then, just days before our anniversary, I left it out on a table.

Catastrophe.

Mo was away so the catastrophe wasn’t that he sussed out the surprise. The catastrophe was the sun had BLEACHED and ruined the cover.

 

 

Epic fail on the one year I remembered 🙁

Ok, so this year, I’ve decided that again I was going to pull out all the stops on our anniversary, but this time I found something that was less work and also a treat for me as well as Mo (it’s my anniversary too and I’m also a bit selfish like that).

UK mini break time!

In my mind, going on holiday isn’t just about jumping on a plane. I define it more as anywhere that requires a bag to be packed. Whether its for the week, overnight or even just the afternoon any place that takes me outside of my home gets me excited.

Over the years amongst the amazing trips to far away places like Indonesia, Abu Dhabi, Zimbabwe… Mo and I have always balanced our time abroad with plenty of mini UK breaks. This year has been no exception.

When you live in a city like Manchester people are always so quick to blurt out ‘ooh it’s so cold’ or ‘how do you live with all that rain’ and I often find myself whingeing about those issues on a regular basis. However, truth be told, I actually don’t mind the rain! Don’t get me wrong I would always choose sunshine if I could, but there’s something quite special about a rainy day or rainy night. Sometimes you want a grey sky and cool breeze for an outdoor adventure.

For someone like me who loves telling a good story, some of my favourites have always occurred when the weather has been at its most challenging.

My favourite UK breaks so far:

 

Weekend in Fort William

Family trip

The start of the Ben Nevis weekenders, this was our first full family weekend away. We had such a good time, yearly UK breaks have now become a family tradition. On this particular trip, some of us donned our coats and boots to scale the majestic Ben Nevis. This was one of those famous times where the weather well and truly tested us. On the climb up we experienced a variety of conditions: sun; wind; rain; ice and lots of snow. It made it interesting, tough but definitely ended with us all feeling very satisfied with our achievement.

 

 

Traverse weekend in Cardiff

Solo break

After learning and enjoying the previous years conference so much, I was excited to return to explore another new city. After the learning part was over and done with, I had an absolute blast exploring the sights on Sunday, waking up extra early to be the first in the castle and then joining other bloggers on a day trip out to the Brecon Beacon national park – a place that is firmly on my list of places to return to.

 

 

Lake District trip with friends

Catchup with friends

Another yearly tradition that we’ve tried to keep up with, our first friends weekend away was probably my favourite. We stayed at a beautiful cottage up high in the Lake District. The adventure started before any of us arrived as we all experienced a dangerous drive in the dark just to reach our lodgings. All worth it in the end as we awoke to the most picturesque views in the morning (I was of course up early hours) and we enjoyed a weekend of fun and merriment in the great British sunshine.

 

 

Manchester, Playing tourist in my home town

Couples weekend

Last November, Mo and I randomly decided to spend a weekend in the city, courtesy of the Mercure Picadilly hotel, where we had a fantastic stay. It was a hotel we’d never looked twice at in a city we called home. Turns out, that made a perfect Christmas weekend break as we enjoyed a fab dinner and relaxed stay right in the heart of our favourite city! We love shopping in Manchester at Christmas time and this was a great excuse to spend the whole weekend doing just that.

 

 

I have a feeling this next one is going to be another good one to add to my list…

We’re headed to the spa town of the Midlands, Malvern for a much needed TLC break at The Malvern Spa hotel.

 

 

I can’t think of a better place to celebrate our anniversary. We got married at a beautiful hotel in the Forest of Bowland, an area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB). There are only 33 AONB places in the whole of England and the Malvern Hills is another one of them.

I am also a stickler for spas – if I could, I would go every week – they are the ultimate luxury experience for anyone needing time to wind down and relax.

The last spa break we had was back in 2014, where we returned to one of our favourites, the Grosvenor Pulford Hotel in Chester.

Something tells me we’re in for one better this weekend though… my favourite part of any spa break is always the fact that we’re treated to pool access and the one at The Malvern Spa hotel looks like a haven for relaxation.

As well as spending time indulging in the hotels facilities, I’ve planned for us to take to the great outdoors Sunday morning. I’ve been swooning over these landscape views all weekend and I can’t wait to see them for myself – whatever the weather 🙂

 

 

 

What’s your favourite UK city break? Have you been to Malvern? Any tips?

 

 

Follow:

 

This time yesterday I was in the Algarve, enjoying the last of the days sunshine. Can’t quite believe it was only yesterday?!?!

Mo and I spent last Sunday celebrating the London Eid Festival hosted by the Mayor of London at Trafalgar Square. It was a beautiful day where we met so many wonderful people, whilst we were stood out in the scorching heat.

 

 

Well, it felt scorching then but seems like nothing now in comparison to the temperatures in Portugal. After the chaos of the City, we frantically headed straight to Stansted and flew the short flight to Faro where we joined the rest of my family for a few days of total relaxation.

And that’s exactly what we did. Even though we got in quite late on the Sunday night I was up bright and early Monday, ready to explore the little villa we were staying in. First job – check out the pool. And from that first journey out on the pool atop the pineapple lilo in my pyjamas… it’s pretty much where I ended up staying for the rest of the day, exiting the water only briefly for meal times.

 

 

Fantastic Four in full holiday mode, this was exactly the kind of atmosphere I have in mind when I think of summer holidays. Private pool, selection of pool toys, goggles, snacks and drinks on hand when we need them and of course a great playlist.

Before I went away, luxury long-haul holiday specialists, Destination2.co.uk kindly sent me an iTunes gift card, with the challenge to create my ultimate summer playlist. I knew exactly what I wanted on it, I didn’t even need to think about it. But I decided to leave the final decision to when we were in-situ.

I am the sort of person who, once I get a song I like in my head, I can literally listen to that song over and over and over again. This usually means that everyone around me starts to hate it. And this is usually the reason why I am banned from being DJ. However when I do put together a collection of tunes, they do tend to go down a storm.

For our ‘pool’ day I had mapped out a number of reggaeton tracks, that send me into summer mode when I’m driving to work here in the UK, usually on a rainy day.

Turns out it didn’t have quite the same effect on holiday.

Instead, I woke up that morning muttering the lines to a song I haven’t heard in decades.

And from then on, things took an unexpected turn…

 

 

Turns out our perfect holiday playlist was a combination of genres, a variety of songs that took us through the days activities.

We started with my morning earworm track – Ace of Base, Living in Danger – leading onto the the full Happy Nation album. Music that got us all reminiscing about the 90’s and energising us as the morning was spent racing to catch underwater dive sticks, throwing each other off inflatables and general mischief making around the pool.

Lunch time saw a change into old school, sing-a-long tracks that we attempted in-between bites, probably annoying the neighbours more than the screams from the competitive morning game session.

And of course after lunch, comes the wave of laziness, a time when only the soothing sounds of Bob Marley can truly relax us all as we float along the pools surface or partake in nap time on a sun lounger.

 

 

It’s funny as none of these songs were ones that I had set aside for our playlist, but now that we’ve done it, it makes sense and perfectly sums up one of the best summer afternoons I’ve had in a long time.

I’ve often spoken about scent being a strong mechanism when it comes to triggering memories, but I’ve realised for Mo and I music can be just as important. Every holiday we have gone on has had it’s own ‘soundtrack’ it’s all part of the experience. In Indonesia, it was anything Bruno Mars. Morocco, the live lounge cover of ‘Viva la vida’ by Lady Gaga instantly teleports us back to our honeymoon desert resort. In Rio we couldn’t walk along the beach without singing Sinatra’s ‘Girl from Ipanema.’

When you are travelling to a new place and you want to immerse yourself in an adventure, your body requires you to engage all your senses.

It certainly helps me define a destination. And today when I drove back after a long day at work listening to my ‘Lilo Looney Tunes’ playlist as I crawled down the M60, I couldn’t help but smile as I remembered my perfect summers afternoon with my loved ones.

Even though it took me two loops of the playlist to get home!

 

What makes up your Summer holiday soundtrack?

Do you stick with all time favourites? Or change them every year?

 

 

*** Thanks to Destination2.co.uk for gifting me with an iTunes voucher to make up my perfect summer playlist. Their summer2017 deals have really helped ease the holiday blues since my return. Luckily the suns been out here in Manchester too, so I can do what I do best and whack that playlist on repeat ***

 

 

Follow:

It was around eight years ago but I remember this moment like it was yesterday.

We were on a family holiday in Marmaris and we had decided to take a stroll down the marina. As we walked along, admiring the natural beauty around us there was a distant pier where the shrill shriek of a dolphin could be heard. Sure enough there, tucked away off a private jetty, was the ‘dolphin experience.’

I remember this moment like it was yesterday.

My baby sister had always said that it was her dream to swim with dolphins. My parents have always done what they could to make all our dreams a reality and as she was my one and only baby sis, I echoed their sentiment. But something just didn’t seem right.

I remember this moment like it was yesterday.

I remember thinking here we were having a brilliant family vacation, the first we had embarked on for some time and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to make the youngest member of our family happy. I could tell the thought had played on my parents mind too. But there was something about the dolphins cry we’d heard that wasn’t right.

I remember this moment like it was yesterday.

My parents didn’t treat my sister to the dolphin experience that day. My dad has always been completely against animals in captivity so it would have gone completely against his principles. I remember thinking that surely this experience was different, after all the enclosure was in the sea. Is it possible that they perhaps let the dolphin out every night??

I remember this moment like it was yesterday.

My naivety quickly drifted away when we heard the sounds of the dolphin once again. I felt washed over with sadness, dreading what circumstances this animal had been subjected to before reaching its fate as a photo prop and sad that my sister may never be able to fulfil her dream.

However, today, on my sister’s 28th birthday I feel nothing but relief and immense satisfaction that my family walking away from that moment, was the best decision they could have ever made. Even my sister at a young age knew that what was happening on that pier was wrong. And today, as a family we were rewarded.

Today on our last day in the beautiful Algarve, we hopped on a safari boat where our captain and skipper led us out to sea.

There, we were treated to numerous sightings of wild dolphins.

We couldn’t touch them, couldn’t control them, we had no idea what they were doing or where they were headed and that was where the true beauty of the experience lay.

Watching them go about their business, free to roam where they please in the vast water world beneath us.

Our skipper Shaheen, explained that dolphins can cover at least 200km a day and made a point on the importance of allowing them to stay ‘wild.’

Mo and I have become a lot more conscious of animal experiences. We have been educating ourselves over the years, after being duped into believeing certain activities are eco or animal friendly on past holidays. One thing we are both 100% against is keeping marine life in captivity.

Google tells me that nearly 71% of our earth is covered in water. Most marine animals cover distances in a day most land animals don’t accomplish in a week.

Watching our pod of dolphins showed us just how important it is for people to be educated in the right kind of animal tourism. Our boats were small and the crew knew exactly how to behave once they saw any wildlife, ensuring not to chase or corner them in any way, repecting their space and territory.

It meant that all of us on that boat were able to witness one of the most graceful and beautiful sea mammals, happy and playful in their own home.

 

(Fyi – Video will be added once I am back home, currently waiting for plane home to take off!)

 

I hope that from now on, this will be the moment I remember like it was yesterday.

 

 

*** Happy birthday to my beautiful best friend. I am so glad we all got to share this experience together. ***

 

 

Follow:

 

Wow. It’s JULY.

Can you believe it?!?!

Time has seriously flown, I find myself waking up every morning wishing for more hours in the day or for the seconds to simply slow down.

July also means we’re headed into the last half of 2017. Six months ago I posted about my ‘this time next year’ challenge, and there were so many people who got involved. Sending me their goals, secretly written down and sealed in envelopes for me to store away until the end of the year.

I thought today was a good opportunity to have a think about my own and see how I was getting on accomplishing mine.

Got to admit… it’s not going great.

Six months in and I am no way near hitting my goal for the year. I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty disappointed in myself. For years I have set myself lists of objectives and I normally get through the majority of them. This year I simply challenged myself to one thing, just the ONE and I just can’t seem to do it!?!

So. I’ve decided I need a new plan of action.

Usually at a time like this I would be looking for ways to motivate myself. Kick start my brain into thinking “you can do this. You can do anything” but for this particular task, that approach is beginning to seem wasted.

Maybe I need to instead turn to why I’m not achieving it. What’s stopping me?

Are the factors that are stopping me from doing it greater than my will to succeed?

Surely that can’t be possible??

As it happens, I don’t believe it is possible, BUT I do believe that looking into my failings could actually be the key to winning this fight against myself.

Literally by chance, fate fed me a sign that I was finally on the right track.

As I worked through my morning chores, my TED app playing in the background, a talk by Tim Ferriss caught my attention instantly as he explained when it came to hard choices in life, we should be looking towards defining our fears rather than our goals.

And there it was. The answer to what I was struggling with. The challenge I set myself this year is very much more about addressing my failings rather than pushing myself with quotes on positive mental attitudes.

By working through the extremely simple methodology he lays out in his talk, I realised that there were a number of deeper issues that was stopping me from moving forward.

Now, I’m not quite ready to tell you what exactly my goal is yet, but I’m definitely feeling a lot more confident about being able to achieve it thanks to Tim.

He mentions a philosophy that relates to his practice: stoicism.

I knew nothing about stoicism until I heard his talk, but looking into the subject I’ve realised it is right up my street!

It’s defined as the following:

The endurance of pain or hardship without the display of feelings and without complaint.

It sounds kind of harsh, but if you investigate further you’ll find that it simply means accepting that there are many physical and mental factors that are out of our control, however we have the capability to train our minds to deal with hardship through our thoughts.

I’ve talked many, many times about the importance of shifting paradigms, to better understand a situation and this is no different. When I’ve looked at Stephen Coveys paradigm shift stories in the past I’ve always spoke about using it to see how a situation affects others. From what I’ve read so far, stoicism seems very much about helping yourself. Self-preservation, self-control. Important skills which I’m pretty sure we could all do with some help on.

Rather than me continue to bore you, I recommend taking just ten minutes out of your night to have a watch of Tim’s talk.

If like me, you’ve been struggling to hit your goals, struggling to reach for that dream, maybe you too need to look at things differently. Sometimes we need to address the tough stuff in order to ease us on our way…

 

 
How are you getting on with your goals? Has anyone achieved there’s yet? How do you motivate yourself? Any tips are most welcome!! 

 

Follow: